Higher Thoughts And The Meaning Of Welsh Mountains

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01Snowdonia20200316Jon Gower, writer and keen walker of the Welsh mountains, explores the unique characteristics of each of Wales' five ranges and reflects on what they mean to the people who live among them.

For many people, Wales is synonymous with its mountains. They occupy a unique place in the country's ancient mythology, its history and its culture, defining who rules the country, who lives in it, and how they survive. But each of the mountain ranges of Wales has its own unique character. In this series of The Essay, Jon Gower paints a detailed portrait of the landscape of these higher places, and in doing so, explores how they’ve shaped the country's psyche.

In the first essay Jon considers Snowdonia as a place of refuge, from the Welsh princes that built their castles here to take advantage of the natural defensive system, to the rare plants finding sanctuary on almost unscalable ledges.

In ‘The Black Mountains’, Jon looks at the way these hills, benign and balmy on some occasions, at others beset by fierce weather, have attracted writers and poets to it like a honeypot, from Owen Sheers to Jan Morris: just as Ordnance Survey maps are covered in contour lines, so too is the landscape around here seemingly covered in lines, of poetry.

Jon sees the Brecon Beacons as being all about water - from their formation by gargantuan glaciers, rumbling slowly across the land gouging valleys and shuffling rocks ever onward, to the many waterfalls tumbling into space. The most remarkable of these is Sgwd yr Eira, the ‘fall of snow’, a veritable avalanche of spume and rush where you can actually walk behind the curtain of water.

In his essay on Epynt, Jon reflects on a landscape that offers meagre grazing for animals, dotted with small ponds and peat bogs, and which remains haunted by the eviction of many inhabitants by the War Office in 1939. Given over to military training, the scything of wind through the tough grasses is for most of the year punctuated by the sound of mortar fire, anti-tank weaponry and machine guns.

And in ‘The Preseli Mountains’, Jon explores the most mystical range of mountains, which are barely mountains, though the highest of them, Foel Cwmcerwyn, stands tall and sentinel enough to have guided the sailors of west Wales safely to shore. On a clear day you can see not only the patterned field tapestries of Pembrokeshire – shot through with the gold threads of gorse hedges – but also nine other Welsh counties, and the charcoal edge of Ireland across the sea.

Producer: Megan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales

Jon Gower explores the five mountain ranges of Wales.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

02The Black Mountains20200317Jon Gower, writer and keen walker of the Welsh mountains, explores the unique characteristics of each of Wales's five ranges and reflects on what they mean to the people who live among them.

For many people, Wales is synonymous with its mountains. They occupy a unique place in the country's ancient mythology, its history and its culture, defining who rules the country, who lives in it, and how they survive. But each of the mountain ranges of Wales has its own unique character. In this series of The Essay, Jon Gower paints a detailed portrait of the landscape of these higher places, and in doing so, explores how they’ve shaped the country's psyche.

In ‘The Black Mountains’, Jon looks at the way these hills, benign and balmy on some occasions, at others beset by fierce weather, have attracted writers and poets to it like a honeypot, from Owen Sheers to Jan Morris: just as Ordnance Survey maps are covered in contour lines, so too is the landscape around here seemingly covered in lines, of poetry.

Producer: Megan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales

Jon Gower explores the five mountain ranges of Wales.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

03The Brecon Beacons20200318Jon Gower, writer and keen walker of the Welsh mountains, explores the unique characteristics of each of Wales's five ranges and reflects on what they mean to the people who live among them.

For many people, Wales is synonymous with its mountains. They occupy a unique place in the country's ancient mythology, its history and its culture, defining who rules the country, who lives in it, and how they survive. But each of the mountain ranges of Wales has its own unique character. In this series of The Essay, Jon Gower paints a detailed portrait of the landscape of these higher places, and in doing so, explores how they’ve shaped the country's psyche.

Jon sees the Brecon Beacons as being all about water - from their formation by gargantuan glaciers, rumbling slowly across the land gouging valleys and shuffling rocks ever onward, to the many waterfalls tumbling into space. The most remarkable of these is Sgwd yr Eira, the ‘fall of snow’, a veritable avalanche of spume and rush where you can actually walk behind the curtain of water.

Producer: Megan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales

Jon Gower explores the five mountain ranges of Wales.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

04Epynt20200319Jon Gower, writer and keen walker of the Welsh mountains, explores the unique characteristics of each of Wales's five ranges and reflects on what they mean to the people who live among them.

For many people, Wales is synonymous with its mountains. They occupy a unique place in the country's ancient mythology, its history and its culture, defining who rules the country, who lives in it, and how they survive. But each of the mountain ranges of Wales has its own unique character. In this series of The Essay, Jon Gower paints a detailed portrait of the landscape of these higher places, and in doing so, explores how they’ve shaped the country's psyche.

In his essay on Epynt, Jon reflects on a landscape that offers meagre grazing for animals, dotted with small ponds and peat bogs, and which remains haunted by the eviction of many inhabitants by the War Office in 1939. Given over to military training, the scything of wind through the tough grasses is for most of the year punctuated by the sound of mortar fire, anti-tank weaponry and machine guns.

Producer: Megan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales

Jon Gower explores the five mountain ranges of Wales.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

05The Preseli Mountains20200320Jon Gower, writer and keen walker of the Welsh mountains, explores the unique characteristics of each of Wales's five ranges and reflects on what they mean to the people who live among them.

For many people, Wales is synonymous with its mountains. They occupy a unique place in the country's ancient mythology, its history and its culture, defining who rules the country, who lives in it, and how they survive. But each of the mountain ranges of Wales has its own unique character. In this series of The Essay, Jon Gower paints a detailed portrait of the landscape of these higher places, and in doing so, explores how they’ve shaped the country's psyche.

In ‘The Preseli Mountains’, Jon explores the most mystical range of mountains, which are barely mountains, though the highest of them, Foel Cwmcerwyn, stands tall and sentinel enough to have guided the sailors of west Wales safely to shore. On a clear day you can see not only the patterned field tapestries of Pembrokeshire – shot through with the gold threads of gorse hedges – but also nine other Welsh counties, and the charcoal edge of Ireland across the sea.

Producer: Megan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales

Jon Gower explores the five mountain ranges of Wales.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.